Longtime Las Vegas businesswoman (and former state senator and KLAS Channel 8 television journalist) Sue Lowden announced today she may be jumping into the race for lieutenant governor. The news was notable in that the Republican establishment has already filled that slot with freshman state Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas.
Gov. Brian Sandoval has already endorsed Hutchison, waiting just minutes after the senator announced to back him publicly. And U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Joe Heck have also lent their support. But if that was supposed to dissuade Lowden, it may have failed. While she only said today she would consider the race, the fact is, the GOP wanted this one sewn up. And it’s not.
In any other cycle, the office would clearly not draw this much attention. (After all, it’s the only constitutional office considered part-time, and its only extra-constitutional duty — economic development — have been taken over by an executive branch agency.) But in this cycle, with Sandoval running for his second and final term and perhaps considering his political future, who is in the No. 2 position becomes all the more important.
Here’s Lowden’s release:
Former Nevada State Sen. Sue Lowden announced today that she will be filing paperwork this week with the Secretary of State to create an official campaign committee LLC as she explores running for the office of lieutenant governor in 2014.
“My experience both as an elected legislator and a private businesswoman means Nevadans would get someone who understands how government policies often hurt businesses and discourages job creation, as well as how to work within the legislative process in order to make necessary changes,” Lowden said.
“Truthfully, I wouldn’t need much on-the-job training because I’ve already been on the job for many years.”
Lowden commended incumbent Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who will be term-limited out of office next year, and added that she expects to continue pursuing many of the projects initiated under his leadership.
“Brian has been a terrific lieutenant governor,” she said. “I look forward to working with him as he transitions to the next challenge in his political and professional life.”
A strong fiscal conservative with extensive business experience in gaming, banking and real estate, Lowden is uniquely qualified in the area of economic development. And as a former board member of Las Vegas Events, she has first-hand experience in bringing events to Nevada that will boost tourism, generate additional tax revenue without raising taxes, and create jobs for many Nevadans who are still unemployed and underemployed.
Lowden also announced that Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers, who has also been considering the lieutenant governor’s race, has agreed to serve on her campaign committee’s LLC board.
“Bob and I are good friends and have spoken at length about this race,” Lowden concluded. “His decision is that if I run, he won’t. I couldn’t ask for a stronger endorsement than that.”
“And as for those who think I might be afraid of taking on another tough primary race, let me assure you that I’m no chicken…pun intended.”
A few things about this:
- Lowden has run in and lost a Republican primary before: She was the front-runner for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010 before losing to ex-Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, who went on to lose the race to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
- That loss happened primarily as the result of her campaign’s inability to respond to remarks she made on the campaign trail about people bartering for medical care, remarks that were mocked by national comedians. That line will undoubtedly haunt her on the campaign trail, hence the inoculation in the final line of her announcement.
- However, many Republicans had a sense of buyer’s remorse in the 2010 cycle, when Angle turned out to be an undisciplined candidate given to outlandish pronouncements and wacky stunts.
- Lowden, with the backing of libertarian-leaning conservatives such as Chuck Muth of Citizen Outreach, will clearly try to contrast her positions with the more moderate Hutchison. (He voted for a Sandoval-backed budget that contained a set of taxes that were supposed to expire in 2011, but have been extended ever since to avoid cutting the budget.) It sets up a classic moderate-versus-conservative debate on the GOP side of the race, and will force Hutchison to spend more money sooner than he’d probably like.
- Democrats still don’t have a candidate for this office, although Assemblywoman Lucy Flores and Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins are interested. (Fun fact: The last Clark County Commissioner who ran for a higher office and won was ex-Commissioner Lorraine Hunt Bono, who won the lieutenant governor’s post in 1998.)
- If a Democrat were to defeat the eventual Republican nominee, Sandoval would be far less likely to seek higher office (say, Reid’s Senate seat in 2016, or even the vice-presidency) or to be offered an appointment should a Republican win the White House that year (say, attorney general or Interior secretary). As a result, Sandoval and the Republicans are highly motivated to win the lieutenant governor’s post.